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Thought Leaders in Mobile and Social: Clickatell CEO Pieter de Villiers from South Africa (Part 2)

Posted on Tuesday, May 17th 2022

Sramana Mitra: To do this on WhatsApp, what do you have from a technical layer point of view? Is WhatsApp giving you an API into which you are programming your facilities?

Pieter de Villiers: First of all, Clickatell was one of WhatsApp’s first business partners to enable brands to serve clients in this manner. You have to be a WhatsApp-authorized business partner to do these things. Number two is we provide a web interface in a cloud-managed environment where you would typically open a Clickatell account, select the channels you want to use, and start thinking through the customer problems you want to solve.

You may say, “I want the client to be able to check their balance or find an ATM.” You could say that you want to send payment instructions or do the payment. You decide what journey you want to create. Most of that is drag-and-drop. Many of the services are pre-booked for you. If you’re using Salesforce order management, then you can select a Salesforce order management icon and drag that feature into the customer journey.

Sramana Mitra: Now that we are in 2022, how many such business partners does WhatsApp have?

Pieter de Villiers: They launched with five initial business partners of which we are one. There must be 30 or 40 by now globally, but that is not an accurate count.

Sramana Mitra: It’s still a very exclusive club that you belong to.

Pieter de Villiers: Yes, but not for the sake of being exclusive. There’s a real investment required by companies to be able to offer these services at the right level of scale and availability.

Sramana Mitra: If WhatsApp opens this up too broadly, the chances of garbage-flooding the WhatsApp platform are very high. The user experience of WhatsApp can get mucked up if too much stuff goes on that platform.

Pieter de Villiers: WhatsApp is acutely aware that the channel is important to the customers. Alarming spam and unsolicited things would be a mistake. They put forward very clear rules of engagement.

Sramana Mitra: The primary application that you talked about is emerging market banking on the WhatsApp platform. Let’s do another use case.

Pieter de Villiers: If you’ve flown with United Airlines, that dreaded flight delay alert that you used to get as a text message comes from us. It only makes sense then for the airlines to say that instead of just telling you that your flight is delayed, I’m going to give you the ability to click on the link inside the text message and allow you to find alternative routes or resolutions to your delay.

Maybe I’m giving you an overnight stay voucher or a meal voucher. Maybe I’m giving you a seat upgrade for free or speaking to an agent. This idea that you don’t have to scramble and navigate to a website is a very practical and logical evolution.

Sramana Mitra: Does Twilio feature anywhere in your technology stack?

Pieter de Villiers: No, Twilio would be a competitor. Twilio does CPaaS. Chat commerce is broader than that. Let me quickly explain to you how we define chat commerce. Chat commerce has three core ingredients. One piece is CPaaS. These are companies that can offer you different channels of communication.

The second part is things like Zendesk which is a live agent desk where you can get human-supported chat. The worst thing you can do is hand off your client to a chatbot and have them get stuck. It’s a very bad experience.

The third is the commerce piece – the ability to do end-to-end checkout. Nobody does payments in chats other than us. We do 1.5 million payments a day in a chat and communications context. That’s a lot of payments, and it’s still early days.

Sramana Mitra: You haven’t me any use case of that end-to-end commerce use case though. Let’s do that.

Pieter de Villiers: It’s a very powerful one. For example, companies like AT&T or Verizon. They’re pay-as-you-go. We’re the first company in the world to do the ability to do a mobile telecommunications recharge transaction via WhatsApp. You can now buy minutes or data any time you choose in this chat environment.

This segment is part 2 in the series : Thought Leaders in Mobile and Social: Clickatell CEO Pieter de Villiers from South Africa
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